Seeking to Purchase the Gift from God

Simon was a man in Samaria who practiced magic to astonish the people, through which he claimed to be someone great, Acts 8:9. Therefore, the people, great and small, all paid attention to him, saying that what he was doing was the great inherent ability of God, Acts 8:10. Sorcerer (μαγεύω) is one who practices magic (μαγεία). This is the same type of magic that street performers use today to amaze people and gain financially from them as they seek to be well-known for their skills. Simon was not the only one doing magic to obtain notoriety recorded in Scripture. Elymas, a false prophet who was known as a Sorcerer, stood against Saul and Barnabas, preventing them from speaking the Word of God to the proconsul of Paphos, seeking to turn Sergius Paulus from the faith, Acts 13:6-8. These men used magic to persuade the people that their power was from God and procure a position of high regard for themselves, giving them access to substantial wealth.

When Philip the evangelist came to Samaria proclaiming the gospel of the resurrected Christ, Simon the sorcerer was among those who believed. The signs and wonders that Philip was doing intrigued him, so he continued with Philip after being immersed, Acts 8:13. Although the Samaritans believed in the facts of the Gospel, they had not yet received the Holy Spirit because God was using this as an opportunity to show the Jews that He is accepting the Gentiles into the Church. Therefore, it was not until the Apostles sent Peter and John, who laid their hands on those who believed Philip’s message, that they received the Holy Spirit, Acts 8:16. The gospel for salvation, 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, first went to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, Romans 1:16. Today, the Holy Spirit immediately immerses and indwells all who believe the Gospel because this sign is no longer being shown to the Jews due to their rejection of the resurrected Messiah. Although Scripture does not state that the Samaritans spoke in tongues, this was the sign being given to the Jews at this time that God was at work in what they were witnessing. Therefore, at least some of them would have been given this gift as a sign to the Jews, and this likely is how Simon the Sorcerer was able to identify that when Peter or John laid hands upon the Samaritan who believed, they received the Holy Spirit.

Simon was witnessing real power, not the sleight of hand that he had mastered to trick people into considering him to be someone great. Still coming from the mindset of seeking to astonish others to maintain a position of esteem, Simon sought to purchase this ability from the Apostles. This request instigated a rebuke from Peter because it was evident that Simon was poisoned by bitterness and unrighteousness; therefore, Peter stated that Simon is to cry out for help from God to change his mind from this wrong way of thinking so that it is sent away from him, lest he perishes with his money, Acts 8:22. “Repent,” means, “to change the mind.” It does not inherently include sin in its meaning; instead, the context determines what the mind is changing from. Therefore, when Peter instructed Simon to repent, he was not referring to sin, for Simon had not yet sinned, but his request was wrong, which shows an unrighteous mindset. Peter is telling him to change his mind from this incorrect way of thinking. He then directs Simon to seek supplication (help) from the Lord so that this wrong is sent away from him. “Forgive (ἀφίημι)” actually means “to send away”. It is often used regarding sin, for through Christ’s blood, our sins have been forgiven; that is, sent away. However, it is also used for divorce (sending away the woman), 1 Corinthians 7:12, God not leaving Himself without a witness to all humans, Acts 14:17, Christ leaving peace with the disciples, John 14:27, and even the Church leaving her first love, Revelation 2:4. Therefore, the context must determine if ἀφίημι (aphiemi) should be translated as forgive, send away, or leave. In this case, Simon has not sinned; however, his mindset is unrighteous, and therefore, his request lacks in character. Since he was caught in a trespass, with objectivity of mind, Peter mended him, Galatians 6:1. Thus, Peter is instructing Simon to seek that God will help him to send away this mindset, not forgive him of a sin.